More and more evidence is piling up on just how wasteful and economically incompetent the UK continues to be. Despite the almost frantic efforts of the No campaign to portray the UK as some safe haven, the facts continually contradict this rosy picture. I have posted before about one aspect of this incompetence, here, – the financial crisis that seem to strike the UK on an unerringly regular basis. But the incompetence and waste of our Westminster governments fare transcends the dismal science.
Wars of Occupation
The penchant of UK governments for wars of aggression are triply wasteful and very costly. There is obviously the completely unnecessary loss of lives, whether British, allied, Iraqi or Afghani. Then there is the cost to us as taxpayers. All these billions that went to secure a bit of worldly prestige for Tony Blair & Co, turned out to be a monumental waste of scarce resources. Resources that could have been put to better and more productive use. Finally these wars of invasion and occupation in muslim countries have done nothing to quash or even contain the rise of violent groups. Instead the continuing occupation of these countries has served as the best recruiting officer these groups have ever dreamed off. The UK remains a target for extremist groups because our governments have decided to invade and occupy other countries. Waste and incompetence on the grandest of scales! Wings Over Scotland has a typically robust look at some of the figures produced for what military operations since the end of the cold war has cost the UK in wasted money. £65 billion is the figures that emerges from a study by the Royal United Services Institute. You can read Wing’s post here.
It is not as if the UK has a track record of wise investment and management of military hardware, nor military software. The Ministry of Defence continues to operate as though the words budget and value for money did not exist in the English language. The waste of money spent on Trident and its replacement is of course pretty well known. Billions spent on weapons that have never been used and almost certainly will never be used. They have never even worked as a deterrent, which is supposed to be their main purpose. Didn’t deter General Galtieri in the 1980s, nor Saddam Hussein later on. But Trident is merely the best known of a series of wasteful scandals emanating from the Ministry of Defence.
The latest in a long line is probably the scandal surrounding the two new aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy. At current estimates these two monsters are going to cost us over £7 billion! Despite this vast outlay they will not be fully usable until 2022 at the earliest. Which leaves the UK without even one fully functioning aircraft carrier for a decade or more. Just as well we do not face any imminent threats. Which of course in turn raises the question of why the UK needs any carriers at all.
Lest we delude ourselves that it is only the military that can waste our money, let us consider the latest folly to come out of Westminster – HS2. This is the project to build a high speed rail link between London and the North. Though of course the North as far as HS2 is concerned means the north of England. Even then, HS2 may never manage to get that far, as it is only planned to go to Birmingham and then Manchester initially. Scotland, needless to say features nowhere in the HS2 prospectus. Many analysts strongly doubt that HS2 will bring any benefits to the North, however defined. Any economic benefits are likely to go, yet again to London. And what will HS2 cost us all? A massive £80 billion! All of it from our taxes. Rarely has so much been taken from so many for the benefit of so few.
Why does this matter?
All this waste matters to us in Scotland, because we help to pay for all these unnecessary projects. Whether we like it or not. With independence we will no longer have to unwillingly subsidise Westminster’s wasteful follies. These and other savings will become our independence dividend. Money that we, who live in Scotland, will in future get to spend on our priorities.